My Health Journey
My journey began several years ago. After many doctor appointments, blood tests and the fear of my body failing me at only 40, I decided to turn my frustration into action and chose to start looking at alternative treatments for the diseases I was being checked for.
The doctors had ordered tests for rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s, and other inflammatory bowel diseases (at this point, I had already been diagnosed with IBS since college, as well as major depressive disorder and anxiety. I also have vitiligo which I have had since age 5). They wanted me tested for MS, which, out of everything they possibly mentioned, THIS is what scared me the most. With nerve and joint pain, ocular migraines, dizziness, weakness, balance issues, and a history of MS in my family, it seemed like a very plausible reason for my symptoms. I wanted answers but I also did not want to let my health be determined by doctors. This was a key moment to take charge and really focus on the things I did have control over.
In talking to a good friend I went to college with, we both have Bachelors in nutritional science, I was talking about symptoms of joint pain and IBS, bloating and weakness, and the issue of gluten came up. I remember learning about Celiac, but never studied its affects beyond what we needed to learn in school. She simply said “Why not eliminate gluten?”. I do firmly believe in the process of elimination diets, so I thought I’d give it a try. It is straightforward and effective, so that is what my first change was. I eliminated gluten completely from my diet.
Within weeks I felt better. My joint pain started to subside and my IBS had not flared up at all. This was huge especially if you are like me and you suffer from intestinal issues that force you to live your life around a bathroom! Nothing is worse than being afraid to leave your house because you can’t guarantee a bathroom will be accessible.
After a few months of being gluten-free I really started to notice the differences. I noticed that if I ate dairy, my stomach did not feel well and I had the same feelings of uneasiness that IBS gave me. At the same time of these stomach pains odd things would happen with my vision. The eye doctor said I was having ocular migraines. I had never heard of these before but the ONLY thing he recommended to me was to give up dairy. I was also fully aware that several things can cause migraines in general so my research began on what dairy can do to the body. This lead me to learning and researching even more about what causes inflammation in the body and what I could do about it.
Looking Into Other Options
Around this time I looked into anti-inflammatory diets. These are known to be the best options for vitiligo, IBS, and autoimmune diseases. This was during the same time my doctors could not figure out why I was having weakness, dizziness, numbness through my body and increased depression. He was convinced I had MS and my neurologist appointment was scheduled. With a possibility of something like MS, I knew I was going to look up every possible cure or way of helping my body.
While all of this was happening I came across a video of a child talking about not wanting to eat animals, and suddenly my perspective of veganism completely changed. I embraced it and never looked back.
Fast forward a year, I have been vegan and very strict about eating organic when possible and decreasing my intake almost completely of processed foods. Because of these changes my vitiligo has actually been REVERSING. I knew autoimmune diseases, which vitiligo is, can be attributed to inflammation so changing my diet and taking into account inflammatory foods seemed to be helping. For years my dermatologist told me vitiligo is not well understood and spots may come and go without reason. Mine was taking over about a 1/3 of my body before my diet changed. Yet mine was reversing on some parts of my body. It is funny how now going to the doctor I tell them and show them how much pigment has come back they just do not want to accept the effects a good diet can have on the bodies ability to cure itself.
I am still learning and refining my diet. As a person with a degree in nutrition I realized I was never taught nearly the amount I wanted to know about veganism, plant-based diets, GMOs, or the impacts of harmful pesticides and toxins we may be ingesting through food. There are direct links finally being shown that these types of foods can have on autoimmune diseases, heart disease, diabetes and cancers. I have turned to every documentary, health article and really started examining where my food comes from how it impacts my body and overall health.
This has been a ten year journey. I believe making smaller changes over a longer period of time leads to success. I have developed a pretty good balance of food for health and food for fun! As a vegan I will never go back to eating animal products, however I do still live in a household of non-vegans. Because of this, I do still accommodate my family’s diet. One of my goals is to achieve an even better balance for all of us. Food is ALWAYS a big part of holidays and celebrations, so I have dedicated time to make food fun, interesting and healthy so not only I can eat, but everyone is still enjoying everything that’s made. This is a challenge for many households that have chronic illness and allergies or just picky eaters in their home. Food should be enjoyed, fuel our bodies, bring us together and if we can accomplish those things all while fighting disease than we are succeeding.
Join my journey. For food is to feed the soul, the body and is a source of celebration!